Seymour Hersh, Forbes, Financial Times, Economist, CNN On War In Ukraine

Ukraine Soldier

Kiev’s inability to penetrate Russian defensive lines should serve as a “wake-up call” in Washington, veteran journalist Seymour Hersh warned on Thursday.

Citing battlefield statistics obtained from an unnamed source, Hersh claimed that Ukrainian forces have only managed to capture two square miles of Russian-held land over the last ten days of fighting. In the two weeks beforehand, he continued, the Ukrainian military took only 44 square miles of territory, much of it open land located before the first of Russia’s multiple defensive lines.

With Russia holding 40,000 square miles land that had previously been part of Ukraine, an “informed official” told Hersh that “it would take Zelensky’s military 117 years” to reimpose Kiev’s rule over the territories.

The time has come for U.S. President Joe Biden to publicly acknowledge that “the estimated more than $150 billion that his administration has put up thus far turned out to be a very bad investment,” the veteran journalist concluded, adding that the “looming disaster in Ukraine … should be a wake-up call” for U.S. lawmakers willing to hand Kiev billions of dollars “in the hope of a miracle that will not arrive.”

Ukraine launched its long-anticipated counteroffensive in early June, using German-made Leopard 2 tanks, U.S.-supplied Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles, and other Western hardware to strike at Russian positions along the front line from Donetsk to Kherson.

The offensive cost Kiev dearly, with the Russian Security Council estimating Ukrainian losses at 13,000 troops as of last week. Attacking through minefields and without air support, according to Moscow, Ukrainian forces have failed to overcome the multi-layered network of trenches, obstacles, and armored emplacements constructed by Russia since last year.

Seymour Hersh writes (PRIGOZHIN’S FOLLY, The Russian ‘revolt’ that wasn’t strengthens Putin’s hand, June 29, 2023):

The Biden administration had a glorious few days last weekend. The ongoing disaster in Ukraine slipped from the headlines to be replaced by the “revolt,” as a New York Times headline put it, of Yevgeny Prigozhin, chief of the mercenary Wagner Group.

The focus slipped from Ukraine’s failing counter-offensive to Prigozhin’s threat to Putin’s control. As one headline in the Times put it, “Revolt Raises Searing Question: Could Putin Lose Power?” Washington Post columnist David Ignatius posed this assessment: “Putin looked into the abyss Saturday—and blinked.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken—the administration’s go-to wartime flack, who weeks ago spoke proudly of his commitment not to seek a ceasefire in Ukraine — appeared on CBS’s Face the Nation with his own version of reality: “Sixteen months ago, Russian forces were . . . thinking they would erase Ukraine from the map as an independent country,” Blinken said. “Now, over the weekend they have had to defend Moscow, Russia’s capital, against mercenaries of Putin’s own making. . . . It was a direct challenge to Putin’s authority. . . . It shows real cracks.”

Blinken, unchallenged by his interviewer, Margaret Brennan, as he knew he would not be — why else would he appear on the show? — went on to suggest that the defection of the crazed Wagner leader would be a boon for Ukraine’s forces, whose slaughter by Russian troops was ongoing as he spoke. “To the extent that it presents a real distraction for Putin, and for Russian authorities, that they have to look at — sort of mind their rear as they are trying to deal with the counter offensive in Ukraine, I think that creates even greater openings for the Ukrainians to do well on the ground.”

The famous journalist writes:

We now know that the chronically unstable Prigozhin’s revolt fizzled out within a day, as he fled to Belarus, with a no-prosecution guarantee, and his mercenary army was mingled into the Russian army. There was no march on Moscow, nor was there a significant threat to Putin’s rule.

Pity the Washington columnists and national security correspondents who seem to rely heavily on official backgrounders with White House and State Department officials. Given the published results of such briefings, those officials seem unable to look at the reality of the past few weeks, or the total disaster that has befallen the Ukraine military’s counter-offensive.

He writes:

There is an enormous gap between the way the professionals in the American intelligence community assess the situation and what the White House and the supine Washington press project to the public by uncritically reproducing the statements of Blinken and his hawkish cohorts.

The current battlefield statistics that were shared with me suggest that the Biden administration’s overall foreign policy may be at risk in Ukraine. They also raise questions about the involvement of the NATO alliance, which has been providing the Ukrainian forces with training and weapons for the current lagging counter-offensive. I learned that in the first two weeks of the operation, the Ukraine military seized only 44 square miles of territory previously held by the Russian army, much of it open land. In contrast, Russia is now in control of 40,000 square miles of Ukrainian territory. I have been told that in the past ten days Ukrainian forces have not fought their way through the Russian defenses in any significant way. They have recovered only two more square miles of Russian-seized territory. At that pace, one informed official said, waggishly, it would take Zelensky’s military 117 years to rid the country of Russian occupation.

The Washington press in recent days seems to be slowly coming to grips with the enormity of the disaster, but there is no public evidence that President Biden and his senior aides in the White House and State Department aides understand the situation.

Putin now has within his grasp total control, or close to it, of the four Ukrainian oblasts — Donetsk, Kherson, Lubansk, Zaporizhzhia — that he publicly annexed on September 30, 2022, seven months after he began the war. The next step, assuming there is no miracle on the battlefield, will be up to Putin. He could simply stop where he is, and see if the military reality will be accepted by the White House and whether a ceasefire will be sought, with formal end-of-war talks initiated. There will be a presidential election next April in Ukraine, and the Russian leader may stay put and wait for that — if it takes place. President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine has said there will be no elections while the country is under martial law.

He writes:

The looming disaster in Ukraine, and its political implications, should be a wake-up call for those Democratic members of Congress who support the president but disagree with his willingness to throw many billions of good money after bad in Ukraine in the hope of a miracle that will not arrive. Democratic support for the war is another example of the party’s growing disengagement from the working class. It is their children who have been fighting the wars of the recent past and may be fighting in any future war. These voters have turned away in increasing numbers as the Democrats move closer to the intellectual and moneyed classes.

Ukraine Suffered Disastrous Losses In Single Offensive

Ukraine’s widely anticipated counteroffensive has seen Kiev’s forces lose a significant amount of armor, including dozens of Western-supplied tanks and infantry fighting vehicles, Forbes reported on Tuesday.

According to Forbes, analysts believe that an attempt by the Ukrainian army’s 47th Assault Brigade and 33rd Mechanized Brigade to cross a minefield near the town of Malaya Tokmachka in Russia’s Zaporozhye region on June 8 proved to be “even more disastrous” than previously thought.

Despite deploying de-mining vehicles, including several Leopard 2Rs donated by Finland and one German-made Wisent, the Ukrainian battlegroup appears to have failed to clear a path through the minefield. The Wisent and three Leopard 2R struck mines, as did several U.S.-supplied M-2 Bradleys, while the brigade came under fire from Russian artillery and aviation.

Experts have estimated that as a result of the failed attempt, which lasted several hours, no fewer than 25 Ukrainian vehicles were destroyed, including 17 M-2s, four Leopard 2A6 tanks, three Leopard 2Rs and one Wisent.

Forbes noted that while the loss of one Wisent is not important, as the Ukrainian army has dozens more, the other losses have proven to be more significant. The 47th-33rd Brigade battlegroup lost nearly a fifth of Ukraine’s M-2s, a fifth of its Leopard 2A6s and half of its Leopard 2Rs, the outlet claimed, pointing out that Kiev lost the equivalent of an entire battalion in one botched assault.

Although Washington has already pledged to provide more M-2 vehicles to make up for Kiev’s June 8 losses, Ukraine’s European allies have yet to agree to provide more Leopard 2A6s and there are literally no more Leopard 2Rs left to send, Forbes noted.

NATO Believes Ukraine’s Counteroffensive Unsuccessful So Far

Western officials have privately acknowledged that Ukraine’s counteroffensive against Russia is not going well, and that future military assistance to Kiev may diminish as a result, the Financial Times has reported.

“Russia still has the advantage of mass,” General Christopher Cavoli, NATO’s top commander in Europe, told a private gathering last week, the FT claimed on Thursday. He reportedly added that Ukraine has not achieved any significant success in its operation.

“For better or worse, the outcome is going to impact everything we do regarding Ukraine, and we are all aware of that,” a senior European diplomat told the FT on condition of anonymity. “Funding, support, political engagement … and most importantly the peace talks that are coming whether we like them or not.”

The FT cited the assessments to illustrate internal discussions in the West. EU leaders are set to offer formal security commitments to Ukraine, and the newspaper said it had obtained a draft copy of the final statement being considered at an ongoing summit in Brussels.

EU members France and Germany, along with the UK and the US, are seeking to provide bilateral security arrangements. The deal would serve as a “stopgap” to give Kiev “confidence in enduring Western support” and ensure that the EU is not sidelined by NATO, the report said. Ireland, Malta and Austria are reportedly against extending vaguely defined commitments.

Ukraine Outraged Over Western Expectations

Officials in Kiev are frustrated by western demands that they accelerate their counteroffensive against Russia, despite already using all available resources on the battlefield, the Economist reported on Wednesday, citing a Ukrainian intelligence source.

The Economist noted that the Ukrainian army had suffered heavy casualties during the first weeks of the widely-anticipated counteroffensive, without making any significant gains so far, prompting Ukrainian commanders to try to protect their depleted forces.

Ukrainian officials hoped for swifter progress, but have since pointed to a number of obstacles, such as effective Russian aviation, large minefields and bad weather.

The slow pace of the counteroffensive has reportedly started worrying Kiev’s Western backers, according to The Economist, with officials arguing that a lack of shock and momentum will cost more lives in the long run.

The unnamed Ukrainian intelligence source, however, told the Economist that such statements coming from the West are hypocritical. “let me put this as diplomatically as I can,” he told the Economist. “Certain partners are telling us to go forward and fight violently, but they also take their time delivering the hardware and weapons we need.”


Politico also reported on Monday that certain Western officials have called Ukraine’s Armed Forces “too cautious” and are demanding that its troops hurry up and make significant battlefield gains soon.

Ukrainian Generals Killed In Russian Strike

Two Ukrainian generals were killed in a Russian high-precision strike on the Donbass city of Kramatorsk on Tuesday, the Defense Ministry in Moscow said on Thursday, citing “updated data.”

The ministry had earlier claimed that the strike targeted the temporary base of the Ukrainian Armed Forces 56th Motorized Infantry Brigade. Since then, the ministry has added that the base was hosting a “staff meeting” involving dozens of Ukrainian officers and foreign advisers.

The attack resulted in the deaths of “two generals, up to 50 officers of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, as well as up to 20 foreign mercenaries and military advisers,” according to the Russian Defense Ministry’s daily briefing.

The news came as Russian forces continue to repel Ukrainian attacks on their defensive positions in Zaporozhye Region as well as in Donbass. Ukraine has lost almost 800 servicemen in attempted assaults on various fronts over the past 24 hours, the Russian ministry claimed. It added that Russian forces had destroyed dozens of pieces of Ukrainian heavy equipment, including howitzers, armored vehicles and a tank.

Counteroffensive Is Hard Work

Kiev wants its counteroffensive to achieve results faster, but this is not easy due to stiff resistance from Russian troops, Aleksey Danilov, the head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, said on Wednesday.

Speaking to Ukrainian media, Danilov acknowledged that Russian troops have proven to be formidable in Kiev’s counteroffensive, which Moscow says has so far failed to gain any ground. “Do not say that these people are untrained, they are putting up a fight,” he said, adding that among Kiev’s problems are the huge minefields laid by Russian forces.

Despite those obstacles, Danilov said he is confident that the counteroffensive will eventually succeed, but called for patience. “We would very much like to move faster, but that only happens in fairy tales. It is hard work, every day. This is the front, I repeat, not a walk in a park.”

In recent weeks, a number of Kiev officials have sought to downplay the apparent difficulties Ukraine faces amid its push to reclaim lost territories.

Ukrainian Counteroffensive Is Not Meeting U.S. Expectations

Ukraine’s ongoing counteroffensive against Russian forces is “not meeting expectations on any front,” Western and U.S. officials told CNN on June 22, 2023. Ukrainian troops and armor are proving “vulnerable” to Russian minefields, missiles, and air power, they added.

“Russian lines of defense have been proving well-fortified, making it difficult for Ukrainian forces to breach them,” CNN reported, paraphrasing the anonymous officials. “In addition, Russian forces have had success bogging down Ukrainian armor with missile attacks and mines and have been deploying air power more aggressively.”

According to one official, the Russian defense has proven more “competent” than expected. However, the source insisted that the U.S. is still “optimistic” that Ukraine will turn the failing operation around, and that Washington will re-evaluate the offensive next month.

However, one of the officials cited by CNN claimed that “Ukrainian casualties are heavy.”

Counteroffensive Not Going Well, Says Zelensky

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has admitted that the long-promised counteroffensive against Russian forces has not delivered the results that some Western observers expected. Amid mounting losses, Zelensky insisted that he would not discuss peace with Moscow.

“Some people believe this is a Hollywood movie and expect results now. It is not,” he told the BBC on Wednesday, admitting that advances by Ukrainian troops have been “slower than desired.”


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